High School DxD – There is more to it than simple fanservice

I must admit that I was partly looking forward to watching High School DxD – while ecchi series can become tiresome, I have a soft spot for a good bit of ecchi comedy, and High School DxD managed to deliver it in spades. It was a show with some interesting characters, nice fight scenes and some great pieces of comedy. It was a show that came across as a combination of Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou and Sora no Otoshimono – we had the supernatural harem, along with a shamelessly perverted male protagonist who is willing to do anything to acquire his own harem. Of course, part of what has sold High School DxD was the fanservice, and it delivered it – what was surprising however was the complete lack of censorship. Whereas other shows with similar levels of fanservice, such as Queen’s Blade and Seikon no Qwazer were censored beyond recognition, there was only a single moment in episode one where DxD was censored. Now, more often than not, censoring is done, partly because of the laws in Tokyo to do with censoring material that is considered to be ‘adult’ – but also the cynic in me says that it is almost purely for selling Blu-Ray releases. Curiously enough, however, this lack of censorship has not really hurt High School DxD in BD sales, with it currently outselling most shows from this season, and far outselling Guilty Crown (some sort of schadenfreude here). In terms of Fanservice it was ok, generally being used in the first couple of episodes as a way of drawing in the audience. But, more importantly, DxD never pretended to be anything else, it knew that as a show about fanservice and supernatural harems. And in that respect the pandering to those who like ecchi was acceptable and seemed to be perfectly fine. There were however a few occasions where the fanservice not only felt out of place but also got in the way of the story and slightly ruined the drama. During episodes 4 and 5, while Asia is dying, and effectively dead there is a significant amount of fanservice, with her clothes ripped and so on. This just felt out of place, as if the staff were trying a little too hard to sell this show in this way, rather than allowing the drama to carry it forward.

Issei was actually quite the fascinating character, someone who was quite open about his desires, and even goes so far as to develop the ‘Dress Break’, possible the best, and worst finishing move even made. But, what made this show really interesting is that it was far more than just a fanservice show with Sakurai Tomoki’s long lost brother at the helm. The plot was well written, with some great arcs and engaging characters, plus a nice little element to do with chess. Asia’s arc really pulled at your emotions, with her tragic past, along with the knowledge that, while she is a kind-hearted person, the world has rejected her due to her power. And of course we have the final arc involving Raizer, a fascinating piece of politics, with some great team vs team fighting.

The plot was far more complex than the fanservice elements would have you believe, with various factions vying for supremacy (although still not quite as in-depth and complex as many other series out there, so hardly a masterpiece). The devils in this story come across as the good guys, whereas the angels, and in particular the fallen angles are those bent on world domination, or simply destruction and mayhem. Seeing the fallen angel Reynalle willing to kill Asia in order to obtain her sacred gear is one thing, but when you learn that she does this in order to become a full angel once again makes you question these angels’ motives. That it may be possible for someone so evil to become an angel again by possessing a sacred gear suggests that angels and demons are not clear cut, there is no good or bad, more shades of grey, with people on either side willing to exploit openings and weaknesses that they see. We did have Raizer, who is easily the least likeable character in the series, willing to marry Rias simply to gain power and prestige, while having a harem of his own.

The characters themselves are all quite interesting, although we have barely scratched the surface with the majority of them. This series only takes place over the first two volumes of the light novels, and it appears that many of the changes happen after this initial arc. All the characters were far more complex than you think, with Rias in particular having a significant burden on her shoulders. And let us not forget about Issei, who, while shamelessly perverted is far more than that, and deserves the attention that he gets from many of the characters. He is a fascinating character, and one of the few harem leads that is upfront about his desires, and makes clear decisions. He is quite capable of charging in to help; he does not wallow in self-pity and simply let events pass him by. He is not stupid and really enjoys his time in the Occult Research Club – admittedly with all those beautiful girls, it might be hard for him not to enjoy his time there. The show had some great character development, with characters changing over the course of the series and adapting to the situations that the find themselves in. This series was well setup, with some great character and story progression – and according to the various wiki’s and other pages there is far more to this series than we get to see in the anime. The story really develops towards the end, with hints about the eventual clashes later on in the light novels – unfortunately, due to the twelve episode format there was never going to be enough time to explore that further. It did, however, have good pacing, opting to adapt only two of the light novels rather than attempt to rush through more material and potentially have too much per episode. There were however issues with the overall execution o this series, with TNK appearing to opt for ‘good’, rather than pushing for something better. The source material clearly allows for a far more meaningful story, however, director Yanagisawa Tetsuya and TNK appear to have opted to rely on the fanservice to sell this show. From a business standpoint this seems to be perfectly sound, and if the BD sales are anything to go buy, appears to be largely successful. But, at the same time, there was a lot of waste here, with the show capable of being far more than we got, with better animation, and overall a more polished package.

This show was very enjoyable though, it was a great mix of ecchi harem, with comedy, fight scenes and fascinating characters. The further into the series we got, the more the characters developed, and the more we began to see Issei, not only as a perverted male lead, but also as a strong character, willing to sacrifice himself for those he holds dear. It was not perfect by any means, and the levels of fanservice will likely put many people off (along with being inappropriate a times), but there is more to it than busty girls constantly undressing (although this did happen regularly). Perhaps there will be a second season, the BD sales so far are promising, but you never know, and it’s certainly not a forgone conclusion. There is a significant amount of source material to chew threw, and given a better director and studio, I feel that this series could have been much better, and any potential sequel could build upon this and further expand the story.

About illogicalzen
An Illogical anime fan in a very Zen-like way.

2 Responses to High School DxD – There is more to it than simple fanservice

  1. I’ll have to say that I wasn’t quite sure about this show for the first few episodes. I don’t mind ecchi, what male would? But like you said it sometimes felt a little out of place or hindered the story to stand for itself. But the second half showed that there was more than naked skin to find in this show. And I have to say that I thought that all of the characters on the good side where actually likable. Kiba who came off as an clichéd walking dreamboy was actually a quite nice guy and good friend to Issei and so were the others. Especially Rias surprised me here, considering I first thought of her as some kind of pretentious, perfect, high-society ojou-sama. But she was generally worried and caring about her club-members.
    And then of course Koneko… I think I’ll take the ED with me for the years to come. Them hips.

    • illogicalzen says:

      Indeed, I was surprised with this series since it did turn out to have far more depth than the fanservice filled first half would have you believe. In terms of the ED, no matter what you might think of it, its probably going to be one of these EDs that stays with anyone who has watched – whether its the best is another matter, but it was certainly unique. It would be nice if there were a second series actually, I have had a look and there is a lot more to the story later on in the light novels, and that was only really touched upon towards the end of this series.

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